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Guest opinions: Sparks fly as county manager, grand jurors disagree on report

Original post made on Jul 31, 2013

After release of a civil grand jury report critical of the county's budgeting process, County Manager John L. Maltbie issued a blistering response. Six former grand jury forepersons disagree with Mr. Maltbie, and set out their case. Below are Mr. Maltbie's charges and a response written by Menlo Park resident Virginia Chang Kiraly for herself and the five other former jury forepersons.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments (9)

Posted by Menlo Observer, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Virginia is right and John is wrong. And so is the other John

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Another letter from a GJ Foreperson,
County manager tries to shoot the messenger for exposing budget secrets
By tim johnson

I write in response to San Mateo County Manager John Maltbie's Op-Ed in the July 23 Daily News criticizing the grand jury that examined whether the county's structural budget deficit was real or manufactured.

I was the foreperson of the 2012-2013 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury. My term has expired, however, so I write this as a private citizen.

In an effort to distract attention from the serious issues raised by the grand jury's structural deficit report, Mr. Maltbie has attacked the grand jury process while failing to address the merits of the report.

Before addressing Mr. Maltbie's comments regarding the grand jury process, let's see what Mr. Maltbie did not say.

The Grand Jury's report made 10 "Findings," including the following:

The County's structural deficit is created solely because the county chooses not to recognize all anticipated revenues in a given fiscal year.

County officials had the facts in hand prior to the June 5, 2012, election to know that there would be an actual surplus for the 2012 fiscal year but did not publicize this fact.

County officials had the facts in hand prior to the Nov. 6, 2012, election to know that there was an actual budget surplus for the 2012 fiscal year and that the budget for the 2013 fiscal year was balanced, but did not publicize these facts.

County officials did not adequately inform the public of the county's true financial condition prior to the June 5 or Nov. 6, 2012, elections.

It is important to note that Mr. Maltbie did not dispute any of the grand jury's findings, including these.

Instead, Mr. Maltbie criticized the grand jury's "secrecy," the juror selection process, and the lack of financial disclosure by jurors.

Grand juries originated in England in the 12th century. Their investigations and deliberations have always been conducted in secret. California law requires that civil grand juries conduct their business in secret -- there is no choice in the matter. Mr. Maltbie's call for openness in grand jury proceedings seeks to overturn 900 years of history and law and would seriously undermine the grand jury's ability to serve as the public's watchdog over those in power.

Individuals must apply for grand jury service. From the applications received, the supervising judge chooses 30 applicants from whom 19 are selected by lottery in open court. The names of those chosen are made public. The process is designed to select qualified jurors and to weed out those with an "agenda" other than to serve the public interest.

Based upon the advice of the grand jury's attorney, a chief deputy county counsel, grand jurors do not fill out financial disclosure forms. That said, scrupulous attention is paid to actual or apparent conflicts of interest. Where such a conflict exists, the affected grand juror(s) do not participate in any way in the relevant investigation, deliberations or report. Jurors recused themselves from two reports this year. No juror had a conflict with regard to the structural deficit report.

There's an old saying in the practice of law that goes like this: "If the facts are against you, pound on the law. If the law is against you, pound on the facts. If the facts and the law are against you, pound on the table." I leave it to the reader to decide what Mr. Maltbie is pounding on.

Timothy A. Johnson Jr. was the foreman of the 2012-2013 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2013 at 3:16 pm

[Post removed. It doesn't seem that this story is directly related to this topic about the grand jury's role and the grand jury's charge that the county is misleading the public about its structural budget deficit. Also, please don't copy and paste text from another publication. That is a violation of copyright. You can post a link. However, in this case we would remove it because it is not relevant to the topic.]

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Why would San Mateo County Manager John Maltbie be so angry and mean spirited towards 19 citizens who donated their time to study the structural deficit issue, and the misleading of the voters.

Thank you to the citizens.

Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Um, Almanac editors? You have allowed this SAME story on Maltbie, word for word on another thread since December 7, 2012 : Web Link. I believe you have permitted this on at least one other thread. Why the over censorship now?

Additionally, given that Elliot Spitzer's past with prostitutes is a big topic in the press as he runs for comptroller, I don't see how Maltbie's past doesn't fit into his fight with the grand jury.

Anything that has been printed in the press on a politician is fair game. I don't understand why you have allowed this in the past but not now.

What the Almanac should be doing is a story on how many of the people in San Mateo government have come under scrutiny- like coroner Foucrault, as well as Maltbie.

Posted by Arrogance, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 31, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Back to the topic at hand, my big-picture takeaways are:

1. Maltbie used insulting and disrespectful language when referring to the grand jury. If I were a Supervisor, I would vote to fire him for that alone. The grand jury is made up of taxpayers. They pay his salary.

2. Maltbie definitely doesn't want citizen oversight of how he does his job. (So what else is new? Most government employees shun accountability).

Definitely doesn't add up to the qualities I'd like to see in a county manager.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 1, 2013 at 7:26 am

Why would the supervisors fire him? He's doing exactly what they wanted him to do. They wanted the books cooked so they could convince voters to pass a tax increase so they could spread that money around to their political patrons and cronies. He did and they are. The supervisors are happy.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 1, 2013 at 8:20 am

"Maltbie used insulting and disrespectful language when referring to the grand jury. If I were a Supervisor, I would vote to fire him for that alone. The grand jury is made up of taxpayers. They pay his salary."

The 19 citizens who donated their time are also residents of San Mateo County. I'm in the process of verifying if Mr. Maltbie is.

Supervisor Warren Slocum just posted on FB a photo of Maltbie, Slocum and Horsley in a golf tournament.

Posted by Henry Fox, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm

This Menlo Future email highlights the cost of budget corruption. We¡¦ve Been Had

Fellow Residents,

In Nov. 2012 we generous voters of San Mateo County voted ourselves a 1/2cent sales tax increase for 10 years.

This week two very newsworthy items sort of made fools of us:

1.On Monday, we learned from the San Mateo Civil Grand Jury that the County does not recognize in its budget all revenues the County anticipates receiving during a fiscal year. It has not, as it claims, had a structural deficit since 2003, and in 2012 had a $26million surplus.

2.On Tuesday we learned that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted to give $11.5 million (most) of the county's Measure A sales tax revenue to Seton Medical Center in Daly City. And that is noteworthy because Seton and its parent organization donated $990,970¡Xor roughly 90%--of the money used to run the Measure A campaign. Almost all of the rest of the funds raised --$100,000--came from state arm of the Service Employees International Union. Web Link

Do you feel abused, as I do, about this?
ƒ¼ Lee B Duboc (

p.s. The Grand Jury report is titled An Inconvenient Truth About The County¡¦s Structural Deficit. You may have read about the consternation it caused our County Manager. I think the report is both welcome and defensible but urge you to read it yourself. Web Link

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